Sunday, March 11, 2012


I spent a good part of this weekend cleaning backwards.  Every few months or so I clean backwards.  And here is why.  Saturday or Sunday usually have at least a section of the day devoted to cleaning up the aftermath of the week's tornado.  The usual culprits: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and picking up, picking up, picking up.... overwhelm and exhaust me.  They are insurmountable chores that dirty themselves faster than I clean.  I've read blogs about laundry piles that have the reproductive proficiency of rabbits.  Seen it.  It happens at my house too!

So, overwhelmed and frazzled, I go on strike.  And I turn my back on the dishes.  I waltz from the kitchen.  I sashay away from the living room.  I act as if I don't care about the crumbs in the couch or the pillows strewn across the floor.  I may step lightly away from my usual foes, but they don't see the grimace on my face or the beads of sweat growing on my brow as I walk slower and more carefully down our dark, dank hallway.

This is where cleaning backwards begins... at the end of the hall.  In the rooms that I rarely let anyone see. The master bath and the... (augghhhhhh) master bedroom.  This is where my mess lives.  MY filthy mess.  My piles of laundry and unpacked suitcases.  My dust bunnies and cobweb cities.  I can make the kids straighten their rooms every weekend.  But no one is around to make me straighten mine.

When I clean backwards, I usually start with the bathrooms.  Guest/kids' first, then ours.  The kids' bathroom isn't so bad.  My boys have good aim, and I usually do some kind of clean each week because I want them to have a pleasant and sanitary bathing experience.  I also like to keep friends, so I try to make sure the toilet and sink they will possibly see are cleaner than, say, a gas station bathroom.  So, it's easy to wipe everything down, change the Scentsy, and walk away unscathed.

But our bathroom is a different story.  When I clean the kids' tub, it usually looks the same.  When I clean our tub, the color changes from infested petri dish to an actual shade of white.  The bathroom brightens and invites cherubim to sing.  Cleaning the kids' bathroom takes about 15 minutes.  I scrub in ours for quite a bit longer.  Quite. Longer.

When the bathrooms are clean, I start in on our mess.  I pile ALL the unfolded, unhung, unhappy articles of clothing on our bed.  Then I put away "stuff".  This usually involves lots of trips all around the house, putting things in a better home.  I also usually find things I have lost, forgotten or wished I'd found sooner.  It's fun.  Really.  Vacuuming up yelping dust bunnies, lint, and cobwebs, I begin to breathe lighter.  Like, I am getting somewhere.  Like maybe my bedroom has a chance to be a refuge again.  This is an ongoing hope, by the way.

Then I get a step stool so that I can reach the top of Laundry Mountain.  And that adventure takes a whole morning.  I can assure you.  The cool part about the mountain today, was my new approach to tackling it.  I prayed.  I prayed for my kids when I folded their clothes.  I prayed for Jason as I folded his.  This isn't my own idea.  It was something our speaker shared at the Women's Retreat in February, and it has left a lasting impression on me and how I feel about the laundry.  Am I still behind?  Sure.  Laundry Mountain can attest to that.  But there is something precious in folding my son's pants and praying that God will guide his steps and his path.  I tear up when I smooth the wrinkles in one of my daughters t-shirts and pray that God will help her grow into a confident young woman, knowing how loved she is.  I am slightly digressing, but those prayers were the only reason that the mountain was dismantled and put away today.  In every drawer, on every hanger.  It's a miracle!

My cleaning backwards also got me thinking.  Why don't I do this more often?  Why do I always worry about the parts of the house that "people" see?  Why don't I take more care of my rooms? Those are the rooms that determine how well I rest and get ready for each day.

The answer is easy.  Because I can hide them.  I can shut doors.  I can keep visitors out, and I can make sure that the visible parts of my house are presentable (most of the time).  It's a facade that is easier to keep up than taking care of the innermost parts of my home.

I spent part of the morning reading Fierce Beauty by Kim Meeder.

"The truth is, we all have it backward!
God's definition of beauty is not from the outside in... but the inside out.  His Words says. "You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God" (1Peter 3:4).  Because of this truth, all our efforts to beautify our external facade can never fix or cure an inside ugliness.  If our inside is broken, no amount of exterior renovation will restore it. (pages 32-33)"

Now, I know that cleaning my bathroom and bedroom have nothing to do with making me a more beautiful woman or a more obedient child of God.  But her words resonated with what I was thinking.

Is the pattern of how I keep up my home mimicking the way I treat myself?

Yup.  Sure is.  A lot of the time.  But that's okay.  I'm not sweating it.  I'm asking God to help me deal with it.  One messy room at a time.


  1. One time, Oprah said that your house is a reflection of your life. I didn't like her much after that. My room is almost always a mess and what is it about the master bath? Mine is awful, maybe because only two of us see it?
    I'm totally jealous that your boys have good aim. Mine do not. I hate, hate, HATE cleaning around the base of the toilet. blech.

    1. I laughed and laughed after I read your comment! While I was cleaning around the base of our toilets (Which I also still hate, by the way. Good aim does not mean perfect aim!), I was trying to be thankful that we had two toilets in the first place. And berating myself for not cleaning them more often!

  2. Excellent post. It is always interesting to me the things we do to keep a good face on things. I love a clean bedroom with fresh sheets, but mine is always the last to be cleaned. Hmmm. I also pray while I do the laundry, and while I wash the dishes, and while I scrub things and while I'm doing any other kind of mindless task that needs doing. It makes me look forward to doing it, it passes the time a lot more quickly, and it helps me to focus on what is truly most important. It's very hard to feel resentful and sorry for yourself when you're talking to God.
    Love this post!

    1. Thank you! Fresh sheets are the best! I was so busy with the laundry and the dust bunnies, I forgot to do that... darn. I have spent a good deal of my life grumbling while I did chores. Such a duh thing to turn whining into praying. It really has made a huge difference! I feel wiser and a heck of a lot happier, even in the midst of messiness.

  3. I had to smirk a little about your backward cleaning because, I usually always start in the places people congregate. By the time I get around to my room, I can easily shrug off the whole thing and not bother. I figure, I am the only one that is going to see it, so who cares?? A little backward cleaning would work well at my house. Awesome concept!!


    1. Thank you! I need to try and fit it in more often.

  4. I have often thought about the way the state of my house (both its public and private areas) is a reflection of my internal state of mind. I then get into this whole chicken and egg debate about whether the house is a mess because I feel crappy or vice versa. It's not terribly constructive and I do know that a good cleaning out (mentally and in the physical world) makes a huge difference in my perspective.

    1. Haha! Oh no. Now you have me started....!